Monday, 16 June 2014

Our Masters' Voice

Saturday / Sunday.  94 days of campaigning to go…

Sadly, the BBC is unable to bring viewers in Scotland the big story of the referendum, because it’s them. 

Another head-smacking embarrassment in a series seemingly destined to outlive The Archers emerged as an exclusive in, of all places, the Scotsman, where it scandalised the five people who still buy the paper for reasons other than the crossword.  According to a rogue journalist since placed on pencil-sharpening duty, BBC Scotland had allowed Better Together to use its Pacific Quay recording facilities and production staff to film a nationally-distributed cinema advert. 

“It’s purely a commercial arrangement,” insisted a BT apparatchik, confirming that the Beeb were mercenaries as well as propagandists.  “The guidelines we flouted are designed to safeguard the BBC’s reputation, and since that was already in the gutter further damage was impossible.  Anyway, the SNP recorded a party political broadcast in the same studio in 2012.”  This was true, but he omitted to say that the Labour Party had slipped the BBC a fiver to make Alex Salmond’s voice sound like Donald Duck.

For those obsessives keeping score, it was hard to judge how the advert that all the fuss was about had affected the campaign.  On the one hand, it was brilliant scorched-earth tactics by the No side, provoking audiences to launch such a scornful fusillade of popcorn and Maltesers at the screen that the cinema chains had to ban all indyref adverts - even the staggeringly brilliant ones from Yes – before their cleaning staff all reported sick with stress.  On the other, it was so cosmically lame that spoof merchants had a field day with it, and Yes supporters had much to chuckle about, which really gets on Blair McDougall’s tits.

It’s not that the BBC doesn’t commission surveys into what viewers think, it’s that the results always seem to be communicated to management by Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.   Further evidence of the corporation’s clunking tone-deafness came with the demise of Radio Scotland’s Headlines, the final edition of which was broadcast on Sunday. 

A programme respected on both sides of the indy debate, where guests with opposing views entertainingly chewed the fat instead of battering each other with frying pans, Headlines was naturally the obvious candidate for the vandals in the boardroom to boot into oblivion.  It will be replaced next week by Crossfire, not exactly an encouraging title for fans of constructive chat.  Of course, it may turn out not to be a game show where Kezia Dugdale talks machine-gun drivel for an hour and the other guests have to figure out a humane way of stopping her.  But, if I were a betting man, I’d be more inclined to place my money on Iain Duncan Smith becoming chairman of Shelter.

Ken Macdonald, an urbane host with an unblemished broadcasting career, save for a record low score of 0% in the Superciliousness module at the Jeremy Paxman School of Interviewing, signed off his last appearance on Headlines with charm and dignity.   If, as he was entitled to do, he harboured true thoughts better expressed in spray paint, he gave little hint of them.  The final edition of Headlines is, at the time of writing, not available on BBC iPlayer.  Please address any complaints to Little Weed, Behind the Potting Shed, Cloud Cuckoo Land.

All told, it wasn’t the best of weekends for the BBC – and I haven’t even mentioned the chilling reappearance on the Andrew Marr Show of zombie politician John Reid, New Labour’s chief foghorn in the days when we all naively believed the UK Government had the slightest interest in a second UN resolution.

Regrettably, John’s grasp of referendum issues proved not fit for purpose, being a knackered old rehash of “currency, EU, pensions” with a dash of “Darien scheme” thrown in to make it really insulting.  But he looks fairly handy with a knuckle-duster, so if you find him canvassing on your doorstep please pretend to be polite.  “Are you Ming Campbell?” is just about an acceptable question.  “Are you Jimmy Reid’s daughter-in-law?” isn’t.

Then lo and behold, we got the organ grinder himself, Peace Envoy Tony Blair, who these days not only looks like Batman’s arch-enemy the Joker, but seems to have a scriptwriter to match.  According to the electrical activity in Tony’s cerebellum, the present-day problems in Iraq stem not from us bombing innocent people there in 2003, but from us failing to bomb innocent people in Syria last year.

Jings, it takes a lot to make me agree with Boris Johnson, but the man’s unhinged. I wonder, does Blair McD have nightmares in which Tony suddenly decides to make a “major intervention” on behalf of the No campaign?    

Anyway, that’s the BBC for you.  You want intelligent reportage, discussion and analysis.  They give you I Love 2003.

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this blog, please consider attending a demonstration outside Pacific Quay at 2.00 pm on 29 June.  Further details on Twitter and all good Cybernat web sites. MI5 officers should refer to their handlers to ascertain procedures for travel expense claims.

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